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Shortcutting… Illness

9 Jan

For the past few days, I have been ill. Nothing serious, before you panic, but just one of those slow-burning January flu type things (Northern hemisphere reference). Sore throat, headache, general fatigue – the works. It’s not a lot of fun but like Bradley Cooper’s character in a recent Hollywood film, I have found the silver lining to my experience: I can use it to help y’all out!

Stage one: symptoms.
Everyone gets headaches. Everyone gets tired. And quite a lot of people get sore throats every now and again. But tick all three boxes and hey presto – you might actually have a valid reason to complain. To this list of ailments I will add sinus pain, aching all over, and a runny nose. If you have three or more of the above, you’re ill. Congratulations.

Stage two: diagnosis.
This time, I decided to just mope around feeling sorry for myself, but if you want to know exactly what’s getting you down, there are a few alternatives. One is going to the doctor but that’s time-consuming and a bit old school. Much more fun is typing the symptoms into Google and freaking yourself out with all the weird and wonderful diseases you might have. In all seriousness though, a trusted website like NHS Direct is actually quite handy when you’re in need of a little indication of what might be wrong.

Stage three: recovery.
I have been relying on painkillers to get me through, coupled with rest and relaxation (read general slackery), and comfort food (read any available food). (Come to think of it, maybe that should be tripleted or something rather than coupled, but who really cares…) One benefit of a doctor is that they might actually give you proper medicine, but dragging the illness out is good in that it gives you an excuse to do a half-arsed job of everything for a few days.

Stage zero: avoidance.
There is, of course, a way to avoid all this trouble, and that is by not contracting any sort of illness in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, antibacterial hand gels are not the answer, although they’re kinda fun to carry around and whip out when the going gets rough. The ole soap and water are supposed to be a lot more effective, although I would recommend hiding your hands and not touching anything during sick season, just in case.

Hope you have more success than me in staying over the weather!
Keep shortcutting,
Zoe

Shortcutting… New Year Resolutions

2 Jan

Happy New Year! I do apologise for the lack of posts recently but I have been wifi-less for the past week or so. In any case, this brings me on to my first resolution: blog at all costs! I must stop silly little things like lack of wifi get in the way of my imparting words of wisdom to you. (All this talk of wifi actually reminds me of an article I read about some hilarious wifi network names of angry neighbours: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour’s Wifi and Get Off My Lan were my favourites.)

Anyway, let’s return to resolutions. Before I go any further, I’d like to propose that resolution-wise, New Year does not start until the 2nd of January. Why? Well the vast majority of resolutions involve being healthy and whatnot, and this is nigh on impossible when suffering from the inevitable 1st of January hangover. One cannot be expected to go to the gym or shun carbohydrates when one is busy rolling around on the ground in pain feeling several glasses of champagne, a couple of cocktails and a shot or two rolling around within. I hereby declare that resolutions begin on the 2nd.

Right, so what resolutions to make? The aforementioned health kicks are generally a bad idea unless highly realistic, as they otherwise tend to last little more than a month or two, and just make you feel more depressed than you did before you tried going to the gym every day. I would suggest limiting yourself to one health-related resolution: mine’s going to be ‘drink 2 litres of water a day’ (incidentally not all that difficult to start on the 1st) – highly realistic, not particularly unpleasant, and not particularly time-consuming. Simples.

Next comes the personality one. My brother’s is to ‘keep being awesome’, but I realise that most of us are a little less self-confident, and New Year is a great time to try and improve ourselves. This can be anything like being more sociable or less shy or any little thing you wish you did differently. Mine’s going to be ‘care less what people think’, and if you don’t like it you can all sod off.

Okay, we’ve done body and soul, last up is the mind. The third essential resolution has to in some way expand your horizons and enrich your mind. This could be through reading more, learning a new language, or any kind of intellectual pursuit. I’ve already said I’m going to blog more, which is very mind-nourishing, but I’m also set this year on finishing writing the novel I’ve been planning since time began.

So there you go: mind, body and soul all dealt with. You will be healthier, more confident, and cleverer. And it’s all thanks to me. I’ll keep you updated on how mine are going, hope you don’t give up too soon!

Keep shortcutting,
Zoe

Shortcutting… Taekwondo

9 Aug

Sorry for the recent lack of posts – my excuse is that I have been swept up in a wave of all-consuming Olympics frenzy, as you might have guessed from my last few posts, before the frenzy completely took over. But today I return to you with information on a new sport that has caught my eye, after watching Jade Jones take the gold for team GB a few hours ago. It is my belief that no activity in which a spinning kick to the head is encouraged and rewarded should go unnoticed and so I would like to draw your attention to the ancient and brutal art of taekwondo.

According to my good friend Wikipedia, the name ‘Taekwondo’ can be broken down into ‘tae’ – to strike or break with foot, ‘kwon’ – to strike or break with fist, and ‘do’ – way/ method/ path, so can be literally translated as ‘the way of the hand and the foot’. The ‘Games and Beyond’ web page for taekwondo agrees with this but offers a more accurate translation – the art of kicking and punching. Brilliant. So let’s get started.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, and the national sport of South Korea, hence all the Korean names for things. Matches are fought in an 8 x 8m court between two contestants. Both wear  white suits – ‘doboks’, and protective equipment – ‘hogu’ – which is either red -‘chung’ – or blue – ‘hong’. Matches are three rounds of two minutes, with one minute breaks in between (in the event of a tie a sudden-death fourth round is played). Athletes are only allowed to used closed fists to punch and parts of the foot below the ankle to kick, so no knee-ing or shin-ing. Full-force kick and punch attacks are only allowed on the part of the torso covered by the protector. Only foot techniques can be used to attack the head, and these attacks must be to the front of the head. Points are awarded when a contestant uses accepted techniques to deliver a full-force kick or punch.

Points are awarded as follows:
  • One point for a valid attack on the trunk protector.
  • Two points for a valid turning (spinning) kick to the trunk protector
  • Three points for a valid kick to the head
  • Four points for a valid turning (spinning) kick to the head

If a player is knocked out or counted out, their opponent is declared the winner.

There are two types of penalty that may be given:
  • A kyong-go warning penalty is given for misdemeanours such as falling down, grabbing, holding or pushing, turning your back on your opponent or attacking below the waist. Two kyong-go penalties lead to a one-point addition to the opponent’s score.
  • A gam-jeom penalty is given for infractions such as attacking your opponent when the round has stopped, attacking a fallen opponent or intentionally attacking your opponent’s face with the hand. One gam-jeom penalty leads to a one-point addition to the opponent’s score.

[The above information has been sourced from the Games and Beyond website]

I believe that there are other ways of doing taekwondo other than simply sparring, and taekwondo-ists can also collect belts etc. as in the more mainstream martial arts karate and judo, but this is a quick guide to the Olympic way of doing things, just so you can understand the rules. Do research further – in my opinion, it’s pretty cool!

Get ready to kick some ass (or rather, trunk and front of head)…

Keep shortcutting,

Zoe

Shortcutting… In Defence of the Chinese Swimmer

1 Aug

Like any good Olympics, London 2012 has already had a fair bit of gossip. One of the biggest talking points has been sixteen-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, who took gold at both the 400 and 200m individual medleys. Many are of the belief that she has used performance-enhancing drugs: her performance in the 400m shattered the previous world record, she had a seemingly unbelievable surge of energy in the last lap, swimming faster than her male counterpart Ryan Lochte, winner of the men’s race, and China has seen some doping in the past – in June another Chinese swimmer of the same age – Li Zhesi – was found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs.

Perhaps, when viewed like this, the evidence seems somewhat incriminating. But look at it this way: Ye Shiwen has tested negative in doping tests. Yes, sometimes these tests miss things but imagine if it was an athlete from your own country? Would you assume that this incredible result was due to drugs, or would you praise such a talented young athlete? No one thought the worst when Michael Phelps broke a whole lot of records and got a whole lot of medals. All we can know for sure is that this young athlete trains incredibly hard – she says she has trained ‘two and a half hours every morning and two and a half hours each afternoon for nine years’, according to the Huffington Post, and there is little doubt as to the sacrifices she has made. It is unfair to just assume that she is cheating, out of – what? National jealousy? Because we feel China has enough medals?

I can see why people might believe that this unbelievable performance must be down to doping, but I think it’s only fair to look at the evidence – doping tests – and give her the benefit of the doubt, at least until new evidence comes to light.

My verdict? Innocent until proven guilty.

(I realize that post was all rather serious – the humour will be back soon!)

Keep shortcutting,
Zoe

Shortcutting… Jet-lag

27 Jul

Sorry the blogging’s been a bit lax recently, but you’ll be glad to hear that I’m back home and fully revitalised so I can now return to my frequent hilarious posts once more.

So anyhoo, as you may have gathered from the title of this post, the fact that ‘I’m back home’, and putting two and two together, there is a time difference between Greece and England which results in fatigue. Thankfully, staying in Europe guarantees nothing too severe: between fair Athens and dear London is a mere two hour difference, which is pretty manageable. However, I have experienced more severe jet-lag in my time, and I want you to know that you’ll get through it my friend!

The first thing to be said on the matter is that there is definitely a better way round: it is much better forcing your eyes open when you’re tired until it is finally late enough for you to collapse into bed with dignity than it is lying there forcing your eyes shut when you’re full of beans and just itching to paint the town red. So when you go West, e.g. to the US, it’s the good way, and when you go East, e.g. to China, it’s the bad way (I suppose these examples depend on where you are – I’m talking from England). That’s one thing to take into account. Also, if you want to go somewhere exotic but want to avoid jet-lag, then do some research and there are possibilities: for the English, for example, South Africa is a twelve-hour flight but zero-hour jet-lag away.

If you are jet-lagged, the best way to deal with it is to force yourself to stay awake when you should be, and keep a book handy when it’s bed time.

Good luck!

Keep shortcutting,
Zoe

Shortcutting… Heat

17 Jul

I am in Greece at the moment – woke up at 3.45 am to get here (I know, I’m so brave) – and I can describe it to you in one word: Hot. Given three more words I would probably add: So. Bloody. Hot. Although I supposedly have Greek blood in me, it is clearly not very prevalent, as I have an extremely low heat tolerance. I think I’ve touched on this before, but hey – if I don’t really remember you probably don’t either. So here is how I plan to deal with it.

1) Sun Cream (/ ‘Block’). I hate wearing the stuff but without it I am burnt to a crisp, boiled, fried, chargrilled, or whatever other cooking method you prefer. So I slap it on and make sure to check before I leave that it is sufficiently rubbed in and I don’t look like some kind of ghost (although given my English skin and current tiredness, this is somewhat unavoidable).

2) Ice-cold Air Con. When the heat gets too hot, I head inside for a nice cool break, until my boiled/ fried/ chargrilled state is lightly chilled. It’s like putting a roast chicken in the fridge: you can never unroast it (ooh I forgot roasted), but it is nice and cold and makes a damn good sandwich (okay the metaphor kinda fell apart there).

3) The Sea. Tomorrow morning, I will most certainly be taking the plunge. I know some favour the gradual, walking-deeper-and-deeper-in method, but I am more of a find-the-end-of-a-pier-and-get-it-over-with type of gal.

4) Ice Cream. A food that is both sweet and tasty, and highly cooling. What could be better? (I particularly like those sandwich ones with the biscuity stuff on either side – there’s easy to hold and the ‘bread’ of the sandwich is much nicer than cone in my opinion.)

Is it hot in here or is it just you? 😉

Keep shortcutting,
Zoe

Shortcutting… Tidiness

15 Jul

Before I say anything on the subject of tidiness, I should warn you that all my tips are highly hypocritical, as I am an incredibly messy person. I am one of those people who rarely throws anything away (I think we’re known as hoarders), and likes to have things piled up rather than neatly filed away (I like to think of it as ordered chaos). So in today’s post, please take everything with a pinch of salt (unlike all my other posts, which you take completely seriously), as it is unlikely that I obey any of the rules I’m setting out.

Right, warning over. Now the reason for this post is that today I was doing some Spring cleaning (or should it be Summer cleaning? It’s Spring cleaning all year round right?), which basically means throwing things away and putting what has hitherto been floor-matter into cupboards, boxes and so forth, and I know you’re dying to hear how I did it. So here goes.

Empty any bags onto the floor. That way, you have to deal with the stuff inside them, and it somehow seems easier to deal with too – I don’t know about you, but I find a bag of stuff way more intimidating than a pile of stuff on the floor. Stuff in a bag seems infinite – it’s like you’ve got one of those Mary Poppins bags that can hold lamps and things (or for the younger among you, like Hermione’s bag when she puts that spell on it in The Deathly Hallows) and will never be empty – whereas stuff on the floor is all visible and you can see how much you have to go. And plastic bags in particular are hideous beings; the biggest pile of rubbish is more attractive than a Tesco bag so empty it and get rid of that bag right now!

Throw away paper. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting rid of paper piles, particularly when the paper’s all crumpled and messy-looking. It’s almost worth putting paper there just so you can get throw it away and feel like you’re making progress, or it would be if it weren’t for the terrible environmental consequences of paper wastage… And if you’re really paranoid that you might need the paper one day, take a picture of it. Photos don’t take up space (yes, they take up memory (as in camera memory (ooh, brackets within brackets (within brackets))), but we’re not worried about that right now).

Move things off the floor. For me, a clear floor makes everything seem more tidy, even if everywhere else is chaos. So pick up anything that’s on the floor (yes, including all the bag contents), and put them on tables, desks, shelves, or wherever they will fit. If the floor is clear then you can hoover it, and if you can hoover the floor then the room is technically clean (according to my rules, anyway).

Be ruthless. As I’ve already said, I hate throwing things away, but the truth is, you can’t keep everything you’ve ever owned (unless you have a hell of a big cupboard). I think the first book/ t-shirt is always the hardest, but once you get the momentum going it’s pretty easy to just chuck away anything that isn’t of paramount importance. So just take the plunge and before you know it you’ll be sitting in an empty room with only your toothbrush and underwear for company.

I hope this post wasn’t rubbish! (Ha ha…)

Keep shortcutting,

Zoe